Combating Gun Violence and Hate in America
Gun violence is a scourge in this country. Nearly 40,000 Americans die every year to gun violence: 24,000 from suicide and 15,000 from homicide. After the tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, there have been 255 mass shootings in 2019 – more than days have passed in the year. Our children are twice as likely to die from gun violence than cancer.
We’re losing too many Americans to gun violence. We’re failing our people. We’re failing our children.
We’re also largely alone in this. We have a number of guns per capita at least twice as high as the next highest country, and three times the one after that. We have the highest per capita gun suicide rate, and some sources have us in the top ten for total gun deaths per capita. And mass shootings are significantly more common in the United States
Gun violence is a symptom of many underlying diseases. As a people, we need to come together, recognize all causes of gun violence, and implement policies that will combat this scourge.
I’m a parent of two young boys. I want to look them in their eyes every day when they walk out our front door and be able to tell them that they’re safe.
Improving our Political Rhetoric
The language that our leaders use matters. When our leaders use violent messaging, it increases the likelihood that their supporters will take violent action.
President Trump has been vilifying and scapegoating immigrants. He’s been running ads that call the situation at the southern border a migrant “invasion.” Telling people to go back where they came from, calling other countries “sh*tholes”, and joking about shooting migrants as they approach the border are all dehumanizing and incitements to violence.
With modern communication channels, messages travel wide and fast. Trump may not specifically incite anyone to a violent act, but continually dehumanizing other people and using violent imagery and jokes will result in some people who have a preexisting tendency towards violence to take up arms and lash out.
As the leader of the free world, Trump knows his messages carry great weight. He needs to reflect on what he’s doing and realize that what he says can cause these horrific acts to occur. It doesn’t seem that he’s capable of that level of self-reflection.
As President, I will:
- Be sure to never use dehumanizing language to describe anyone.
- Call out leaders on both sides of the aisle that stoke hate and fear, or use dehumanizing and hateful language against anyone.
Implementing Common Sense Gun Safety Laws
It’s unacceptable that we continue to have exceptionally high levels of gun violence and our government can’t even enact common-sense reforms that have overwhelming popular support. Our children are doing active shooting drills in school, and we’re doing nothing to make them feel safer.
For many Americans, guns are a big part of their culture and identity. That must be respected. However, guns are a major responsibility and thus we need to have common-sense gun safety measures, especially considering that there are already approaching 400 million firearms in the United States. Responsible gun owners should continue to enjoy the right to bear arms, subject to licensing and education requirements that will enhance public safety. But we need to ban the most dangerous weapons that make mass shootings as deadly as they have become.
As President, I will:
- Work to pass common sense gun reform laws, including:
- A licensing system and waiting periods
- Universal background checks and red flag laws
- A definition of assault weapons so they can be banned
- Ban after-market magazines and feeder devices that increase capacity.
- Incentivize gun manufacturers to limit after-market alterations.
- Implement and fund a voluntary buyback program, funded with a starting seed of $200 million but increasing based on the success of the program.
- Provide tax incentives for gun safety purchases.
- This is just a small list of policies we need to implement around gun safety. To see a complete list of Andrew’s proposals, please read his entire Gun Safety policy here.
Ending the Influence of Lobbyists
90% of Americans support background checks. 85% support a red flag law.
There are plenty of common sense gun safety laws out there with widespread public support. Why hasn’t Congress been able to get them passed?
Organizations like the NRA have spent over a hundred million dollars over the past decade, lobbying against any and all gun safety legislation. They’ve spent tens of millions in a single year lobbying legislators to fight against even constitutional, popular gun safety legislation.
All the while, they’ve been preventing the confirmation of any judge that would allow gun control legislation to be ruled unconstitutional. Our federal judiciary has been transformed over the past few years to the point where it will be difficult to overcome judicial activism in expanding the radical and expansive interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that has only recently taken hold after decades of lobbying by the NRA.
We need to get this money out of politics if we want to have any chance of ending the gun violence epidemic plaguing this country.
As President, I will:
- Ban anyone who serves in my administration from lobbying for a period of time after they leave their position.
- Refuse to hire anyone who formerly worked as a lobbyist for any gun rights or gun manufacturing organization in my Administration.
- Work with Congress to pass limitations on lobbying after leaving Congress.
- Pass a Democracy Dollars bill, putting over $20b directly in the hands of the American people to support politicians they agree with and drown out the influence of lobbyists.
- Pass a Term Limits bill to make it harder for lobbyists to develop long-standing relationships with Congress Members that prevent new ideas or legislation from passing.
- Consider ways to alter the makeup of the Supreme Court if they refuse to allow common sense gun legislation to be enacted, including implementing term limits.
Fighting the Rise of White Nationalism and Extremism
White nationalist terrorism has accounted for over 70% of terrorism-related deaths in the US over the past decade. Some organizations have stated that the number of white nationalist perpetrators of terrorist attacks has quadrupled since 2016. There is widespread agreement between law enforcement officials, both in the US and throughout Europe, that white nationalist and far-right terrorism are on the rise. Law enforcement agencies in the United States have had an increasing number of interactions with these groups, resulting in the deaths of dozens of brave men and women over the past several decades.
These violent acts represent only a small subset of this toxic ideology. Some polls have found almost 10% of Americans believe it’s acceptable to hold neo-Nazi beliefs. According to the Anti-Defamation League, both the volume of propaganda being spread by white nationalist groups and the number of public demonstrations have increased over the past several years. Some experts have pegged the number of white nationalists active in the community in the hundreds of thousands.
And they’re blending in better – having traded in their “boots for suits,” there has been a concerted effort by these white nationalist groups to improve their image, seem more respectable, get degrees, and work in law enforcement, media, and other places where they can spread their hateful ideologies to a wider audience.
We need to confront this threat head-on. In order to tackle the massive problems we face – climate change, economic displacement, growing authoritarianism across the globe – all Americans must be united. There’s no room for hateful and extremist ideologies in this country. It’s time that we get serious about confronting this threat.
As President, I will:
- Call out white nationalism wherever it arises.
- Establish a centralized location to aggregate statistics on white nationalism and domestic terrorism, possibly through an expansion of the FBI’s UCR.
- Direct the Department of Justice to prepare and publicly release an Annual Report on Domestic Terrorism, in order to ensure all Americans are properly informed on this issue.
- Help victims of domestic terrorism:
- Pass a Medicare for All system that fully covers mental health and trauma services for victims of domestic terrorism.
- Maintain an opt-in database of victim’s support groups that’s publicly accessible.
- Expand the Victim Services Division of the FBI to better serve individuals affected by these crimes.
- Establish a victim’s fund to help victim’s of this violence recover.
- Instruct the Department of Justice, and the FBI in particular, to treat white nationalism and domestic terrorism as a central focus.
- Increase the budget for fighting domestic terrorism to match non-military spending on fighting foreign terrorism.
- Work with Congress to pass a federal statute creating a clear federal domestic terrorism offense, and provide for appropriately harsh punishment.
- Work with allies abroad to combat the rise of white nationalism
- End relationships with white nationalist political parties when possible; minimize contact and refuse to provide/sell any type of materials that could be used to further white nationalist goals to parties when ties can’t be cut completely.
Fight the Spread of Hateful Ideas
The internet and social media have made it much easier to spread hateful ideas and ideologies. Dark corners of the web like 4chan and 8chan regularly see vile ideas shared and laughed at, and mass shooters will frequently post their manifestos to these sites. They also see commentary that cheers the shooters along and encourages others to commit violence. Social media services also see violent videos shared, such as when the New Zealand mass murder was streamed on Facebook.
We need to be very careful not to infringe on the First Amendment rights of individuals, but we also need to work to minimize the spread of incitements to violence on social media channels and websites.
The government should work with social media companies to combat the spread of violent rhetoric online, especially those that depict actual incidences of violence or call for specific acts of violence.
We also need to do more to get people out of their online bubbles and into local communities. We should investigate the impact of social media on our children and come up with guidelines on how much exposure is acceptable. All high school seniors should spend time traveling to a different part of the country to get exposed to different cultures.
As President, I will:
- Work with social media and hosting companies to minimize the spread of incitements to violence, while respecting First Amendment rights.
- Implement the American Exchange Program to allow all high school students to experience different areas of the country and form friendships with a diverse group of Americans.
Reforming Individuals Trying to Leave Hate
We must absolutely and unequivocally condemn white nationalism as an ideology. We must absolutely and unequivocally condemn any violence done in furtherance of this ideology. We must harshly punish anyone who commits a crime in order to accomplish the goals of this ideology. A single life lost as a result of domestic terrorism is too many.
The only way we can possibly minimize the loss of life due to white nationalism-inspired domestic terrorism is to provide a way for those who are entrenched in this hateful world to leave, if they desire.
Non-profit organizations are much better equipped to do the work of reaching out to individuals who are trying to leave the white nationalist community. Life After Hate and Free Radicals are two such groups. I spoke with Christian Picciolini about the work he’s done on this front and the successes he’s had. We need to expand the work done by individuals like him.
Finally, we need to ensure that prisons have the resources necessary to combat white nationalist gangs, and provide services to individuals who are looking to leave these organizations and, upon release, rebuild their lives outside of the white nationalist community.
As President, I will:
- Invest millions in nonprofits such as Life After Hate and Free Radicals that help individuals disengage from white nationalist groups.
- Provide ancillary services when necessary to help individuals disengage from white nationalist groups, such as tattoo removal through the Medicare for All system.
- Ensure that all federal prisons have the resources necessary to help incarcerated individuals leave white nationalist groups when they desire.
Strengthen American Families and School Systems
We need to do a better job in creating a system where all American children are set up to succeed. This involves strengthening families and our education system.
When I talked with Christian Picciolini, he noted that children – usually young boys – who suffer traumatic “potholes” are significantly more likely to search for a community and be targeted by white nationalist groups. Trauma, abandonment, and loss have all been cited as primary drivers in turning people towards white nationalism. We need to intervene so that these children can deal with their trauma and become contributing members of our society.
We can help parents stay together by providing tax credits for anyone who wishes to go to marriage counseling, and provide resources for single parents who often struggle to both work and raise their children. We need to implement a paid family leave policy so that families have more time to bond.
We can also improve our school system. First, we can expand it to provide affordable childcare and early childhood education/universal pre-K for all students, to improve educational outcomes and socialization. Second, we can ensure that every school has staff trained to identify children in crisis, so that the issues they’re dealing with can be identified. Finally, schools should be encouraged, through grants, to investigate alternative disciplinary plans that focus on positively reinforcing good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. These programs have shown great promise in many schools that have implemented them.
As President, I will:
- Provide a tax credit that covers marriage counseling for every couple that wants it.
- Increase assistance to single parents.
- Implement a paid family leave policy to ensure that all new parents have time to spend with their children.
- Expand our education system to provide daycare and early childhood education for all.
- Ensure all schools receive training on identifying children who are in crisis and providing them with assistance.
- Provide grants to school districts with alternative, rehabilitative disciplinary plans.
We need to help keep Americans safe from gun violence and white nationalism, domestic terrorism, and all forms of extremism.
Let’s come together to address this challenge.